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Our voice in Topeka

Representative, District 70

We finished the wrap-up session at about 3:00 a.m. Saturday. We passed a budget (spending plan) that balances on paper, with no tax increases required. We Republicans, in the House of Representatives, had difficulty agreeing on a budget plan of our own, and I proposed a compromise that appeared to gain momentum on Thursday — the last realistic day available to pass a House budget. It went nowhere.

Instead, having passed no House plan, I voted to adopt the Senate budget plan which cuts state agencies and education (K-12 and higher education) 2.75 percent, but left $71 million to be raised through a separate revenue bill. The Senate budget has many good features, but it has flaws (all budgets are flawed in some way), most notably the slider will not be paid. I would have preferred to see a Republican House budget. With two budgets, one adopted by the Senate and one adopted by the House, a conference committee could have ironed out the problems in each.

The revenue measure we passed to complement the budget includes settlement powers for the Department of Revenue, temporary suspension of the film tax credit, as well as a 10 percent “haircut” to numerous income tax credits. Not touched were the credits for homestead, earned income, daycare, or food sales tax. We also modified the right to claim a sales tax refund from three years to one year. We did not cut state employee pay nor delayed the phase-out of the corporate franchise tax to balance the budget.

The Governor suggested we cut as little as possible and raise as little revenue as possible. He stated he is prepared to make cuts during the 2010 fiscal year, if necessary, to keep a cash balance. That way, we harm no program that might be necessary during this recession until it becomes clear Kansas has no other choice. This is in essence what we did. All things being equal, I would have preferred a healthy ending balance, and possibly heavier spending cuts, but not all things are equal.

Governor Parkinson settled the lawsuit with Sunflower Electric Co-op. That took the Holcomb coal plant issue off the legislative table. He agreed to allow a coal-fired plant to be built, but Sunflower must offset the plant’s CO2 emissions by building wind energy generation. The settlement also requires passage of a statutory plan for alternative energy and electric transmission, which the legislature did pass.

We return to Topeka for one day in early June to close the session and consider any problems, which may arise in the meantime. There are other session highlights, but space does not permit me to review them all. With the end of the session, contact me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or by e-mail at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net.

Last modified May 13, 2009

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